The versatile jackfruit
The mulberry family contains about sixty general and over 1,500 species of trees and shrubs, found mainly in the tropics. However, only a few, including the fig and mulberry, are used as fruit. Others, including the breadfruit, jackfruit, and champedak are used both as a fruit and as a vegetable. The jackfruit is thought to be native to the rainforests of India, spreading to Sri Lanka, then onto the mainland of Southeast Asia, keeping to the more northerly regions and away from the tropical areas favoured by the breadfruit.
Cultivation of the fruit has taken place in India since ancient times, as well as in Southeast Asia, Africa, and tropical regions of America and Australia. The jackfruit is one of the largest fruits grown in tropical Asia. It is often three feet long, twenty inches in diameter, and may weigh over ninety pounds; although they usually average about forty-five pounds. Next to the pumpkin, jackfruit is the largest fruit in the world. A general distinction is made between soft jackfruits, which can be broken open with the hands, and the hard ones which require a knife to open them. Strangely, it is the latter that is preferred, but there are many varieties that do not fall into either category. Some believe that the best variety of all is the peniwaraka (honey jak) from Sri Lanka.
The jackfruit is the largest of all tree-borne fruits, but is really a collection of fruits which fuse together as does another relative, the fig. These large, irregularly shaped oval fruits grow directly from the trunk of the tree on a short stem. Considered to be a composite fruit, it has a structure similar to that of a pineapple, but not as tidy, with sections clustered in irregular clumps and covered with spikes. When the jackfruit is ready to eat, the skin will be stretched out enough for each of the spikes to stand clear of one another. Although the smell of the fresh fruit has a disagreeable musty odour, the flesh inside has an aroma of pineapples and bananas. Inside the fruit and under its green shell are a number of fruit compartments or segments arranged like a wheel. Each fruit contains a few, or upto 500, large starchy edible seeds, which are sometimes called breadnuts, although the true breadnut belongs to a different species. It is the chempedak that is usually the source of the true “breadnuts”. When the fruits are cut crosswise, the individual segments are easier to remove. The fibrous covering can then be carefully peeled from each segment to expose the smooth yellow flesh. The seeds are then removed from each segment.
As the fruit ripens, it is often covered with a bag - not to keep birds away but to encourage ants to swarm around it to repel other insects. When ripe, the jackfruit is used as a fruit; but if picked “green”, it is used as a vegetable. The flesh may be diced or dried and used in soups or in pickles. The seeds are very rich in calcium and protein; but the fruit itself is not very nutrient rich, although it does contain some carotene. In Thailand, the seeds, which are called med kha-nun, are boiled in several changes of water and roasted, then eaten like chestnuts. They can also be pounded into flour. The young shoots and flowers are sometimes eaten as a vegetable. The pulp is firm, thick, and sweet and will continue to ripen even after it is peeled. If the bulbs are boiled in milk and then drained and cooled, the congealed mass that is left forms a pleasant orange-coloured custard. The flesh is sometimes candied by the Chinese and Malaysians.
The jackfruit is very large in size - about 30 to 40 inches in length and 12 to 20 inches in diameter. Only about 30% of the fruit is edible. The fruit has a green to brownish yellow rind and it has numerous small spines in its skin. Edible, very tasty, sweet yellow bulbs are embedded in fibrous interior. It has one and a half to two inch long and 3/4 inch thick seeds.
Very good source of potassium and vitamin C.
Jackfruit is rich in potassium which may help to regulate blood pressure.
India is the leading jackfruit producing nation. Black Gold(Australia) Cheena (Australia), Cochin (Australia), Dang Rasimi (Thailand), Gold Nugget (Australia), J-30 (Malaysia) and J-31 (Malaysia) are some cultivars available in the US.
Jackfruit is an evergreen, 30 to 70 ft tall tree. Humid tropical and near tropical climates are well suited for jackfruit.
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Ripe jackfruits are very fragrant. The fruit colour changes from green to yellowish brown when ripe. To remove fruit bulbs, apply cooking oil on hands and utensils to free from gummy latex.